|Fiction over fact|
|How it didn't happen|
The chapel is located in the village of Roslin (sometimes Rosslyn or Roslyn) a few miles outside Edinburgh. Roslin is also home to the Roslin Institute (part of the University of Edinburgh), which produced the first animal to be successfully cloned from an adult somatic cell, Dolly the Sheep, in 1996.
Origins and myths
Rosslyn Chapel was founded by William Sinclair (or St Clair) close to Roslin Castle, home of the Sinclair family, and building commenced in 1456.
The most prominent myth associated with the chapel is the Knight Templar/Holy Grail/Masonic nonsense. It roughly goes along the lines of:
- William Sinclair was a Knight Templar (he wasn't).
- The chapel was modelled on Solomon's Temple and was built to contain the greatest treasures of the Templars, including the Holy Grail (it wasn’t).
- William Sinclair founded the Masonic Movement in Scotland to protect these treasures (he didn't, although a descendent, another William Sinclair was first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland many centuries later).
As you can imagine the reaction of professional historians is basically "why do people believe all this crap?".
There are two other sites in the east of Scotland with supposed Templar connections: the village of Temple in Midlothian and the Isle of May at the mouth of the Firth of Forth. They are sometimes considered to find a mystical triangle, at the centre of which is a tiny island called The Lamb, which some (e.g. Uri Geller) claim has connections with ancient Egyptian royalty. This can be taken as seriously as anything else Uri Geller has ever said.
The Da Vinci Code connection
Unsurprisingly, the myths connecting Rosslyn Chapel to the Holy Grail and the Knights Templar were plundered and promoted by conspiracy theory-loving thriller novelist Dan Brown, who featured a, hmm, imaginative portrayal of the chapel's role in his best-selling book The Da Vinci Code (2003).
Following the success of the novel, and especially the 2006 Hollywood movie adaptation, which included climactic scenes filmed on location at the chapel, numbers of visitors at the chapel shot up, and enough money was passing through the tills at the ticket office and gift shop to continue funding much-needed repairs, as well as expansion of tourist facilities at the site.
The Da Vinci Code phenomenon has also prompted all kinds of tie-in woo, connecting Rosslyn Chapel to medieval mysticism and magic in one way or another. A few examples include the following:
- The enigmatic arcanum of Rosslyn Chapel and the Bride of Christ by Barry Dunford.
- The Temple of Mysteries by, er, "The Grand Master of the Temple of Mysteries"
- Roslin Gateway by Brian Allan
- The Head Of God: The Lost Treasure of the Templars by Keith Laidler includes the claim that Jesus's head is buried at Rosslyn
(Grand)children of the Corn
Much of the interior of Rosslyn Chapel is adorned with elaborate stonework. In addition to a horned Moses, it contains carvings that look somewhat like ears of corn (maize, which according to conventional history arrived in Europe after 1492).
According to some sources, this is because William Sinclair's grandfather, Henry Sinclair, travelled to Nova Scotia in 1398 with a Venetian navigator and a Norse crew (his title of Earl of Orkney made him a vassal of the King of Norway) . And presumably brought back some corn (or at least a description thereof).
Spiral carving around pillars supposedly depicts a double helix revealing the structure of DNA, indicating knowledge of science not discovered until hundreds of years after the chapel's construction. However, studying the photos shows that the column actually has a quadruple helix with one strand at each corner, not a double helix. A twisted pillar, known as a Solomonic or barley-sugar pillar, is an architectural feature that was common in High Gothic buildings in western Europe, as well as several classical Greek and Roman examples and an old association with the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
Another even sillier theory claims that Rosslyn Chapel is one of a number of stargates which aliens use to visit the earth, bringing knowledge of maize and DNA. Rosslyn is sometimes included in the "Falkirk Triangle", an area of supposed UFO activity around Bonnybridge in central Scotland. However if you extend the triangle to cover Rosslyn, this area includes Edinburgh airport, one of the busiest in the UK, and most of Scotland's population, so there is little surprise it contains most of Scottish UFO sightings.
- According to Holy Blood, Holy Grail which, of course, as noted in Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail. is nonfiction.
- Hargraves, Neil. "Rosslyn and the Grail Myths". scotland.org, Scottish government website. Retrieved 9 Feb 2013.
- Why I Bought Lamb Island, UriGeller.com
- Uri Geller looks to excavate Forth's Lamb Island in treasure hunt, The Scotsman, 8 March 2010
- Leeman, Sue. "Da Vinci Code tourists flock to Scottish chapel". Associated Press / msn.com.
- The Head Of God: The Lost Treasure of the Templars, Keith Laidler, 2nd edition, Phoenix, 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0752826899
- Christ's head 'in Scottish chapel', BBC, 11 Aug 1998
- Moses with horns
- See the Wikipedia article on Maize.
- wikipedia:Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney#The alleged voyage to North America
- Holy Grail Across the Atlantic
- DNA - DNA and the Apprentice Pillar, Stuart Mitchell, Token Rock
- See the Wikipedia article on Solomonic column.
- Gothic Architecture in Spain, Courtauld Institute
- A History of Architecture (Part II), Banister Fletcher, 1896
- 5 Things You Never Knew About Rosslyn Chapel, Rabbies blog (Scottish tourism company), 26 Jan 2018
- The truth is out there: the history of Edinburgh’s UFO hotspot, i News, July 7, 2017